Movie Review: Last Christmas

“Last Christmas” had all the elements to make it the season’s guilty pleasure: English accents, charming London scenery, screenplay writing by Emma Thompson, well-known, likeable actors, music by George Michael and a heartwarming trailer. Unfortunately, these parts didn’t add up to a whole. Long before you hear the song “Last Christmas” playing in the background for the third or fourth time, you’re ready for this movie to end.

The plot, which promised to be inspiring and uplifting, was cheesy, even for a Christmas movie. The main character, Kate (Emilia Clarke) is unbearably conventionally cute, embodying the stereotype of a wounded wannabee singer just trying to make it work. But she seems so self-absorbed that she is, in fact, extremely unlikeable. Of course, she has a tragic secret: she nearly died of heart problems last Christmas, so the audience is meant to admire her pluck. I don’t. The one way in which her story strays from convention is that she, her sister, and their parents immigrated from the former Yugoslavia when she was young, but that just seems like a gratuitous detail thrown in because it’s 2019. Kate’s love interest, Tom (Henry Golding), is unnaturally solicitous to the point where he seems stalker-like. Yet Kate follows him without question when he leads her down a very small, isolated alleyway at night.

The plot is ever so predictable. The lead actors keep meeting spontaneously, and every time Kate does something goofy that we are meant to think is charming, while Tom reveals yet another upstanding and admirable personal attribute, such as the fact that he spends his spare time volunteering in a homeless shelter. Pretty soon Kate is following his lead, doing her own form of volunteerism and supposedly becoming a better person. The pair engage in various cliched romantic activities, such as ice-skating after hours in an empty rink until someone kicks them out. Supposedly, they are falling in love. Does the audience believe this? No, I do not. Somehow, they have no chemistry whatsoever. I was promised romance and I am underwhelmed. At this point, the actors have little chemistry and appear to be just going through the motions, as though they don’t believe that the audience will buy it, either.

I don’t want to spoil the ending of the movie for anyone who still wishes to see it, but I will tell you that there is a “big reveal” and it involves a too-literal interpretation of the overplayed song lyrics, “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart.” The music swells, the final plot twist arrives and the audience is meant to smile and cry and smile again. If you’re like me, you’ll smile because it is finally over. I am not a huge fan of holiday rom-coms, but I can appreciate a good one when I see it. I recommend you skip out on theater tickets and watch “Love, Actually” with movie snacks that you don’t have to sneak in.